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10 golden tips on how to find cheap hotels and accommodations

You probably landed on this page because you are looking for tips on how to find cheap hotels. Well, you’re in luck! For the last 14 years, I’ve been traveling around the world without going home and here are many accommodation tips and tricks.

???? Reader Mail: Hi Trish! My name is Noah and I discovered your travel blog through a friend in Sydney. I do not know if you remember but you and she met in Bolivia back in 2014 – she speaks very highly of you and I am impressed by your travels!

I am planning to travel to South America soon and I would like to go around without a time limit. With this, do you have any tips on how to find cheap accommodations?

I’ve seen you all over and I can’t fathom how you find the best accommodation deals! Will you please help me? Thank you so much and more power to your blog! I really love how you write!

-Noah Kelly, Australia

Hi Noah!

I really appreciate you reading the blog! Wow, 2014 was a long time ago – I feel like my trip to Bolivia has been ages! Yes, you are correct! I’ve been meaning to share my tips on how to find cheap hotels all over the world so thank you for writing!

This blog thrives on reader questions so I am very happy to answer you here. There are many ways on finding cheap accommodations anywhere in the world and in this post, I will share with you my tips.

I hope you make it to South America and let me know if you have any questions – I am truly excited for your trip!

Xx,
Trisha

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find cheap hotels

???? Can I find cheap hotels last minute?

ABSOLUTELY! We often have a mindset that booking closer to date can be really expensive but that is not the truth for many countries. But I’ll let you in a secret that not everyone knows: the best way to find cheap hotels last minute is to walk in!

Walk-in rates are way cheaper than booking online. You see, the prices that hotels put online are with added rates since booking platforms like Agoda, Booking.com, Expedia, etc are putting commissions for every hotel listing.

For example, if hotel X is US$45 per night on any booking platform (they usually put the same prices in all platforms), it can be as cheap as US$35 when you walk in. 

Find cheap hotels last minute

I paid US$35 for a private room in this hotel in Guadalajara, Mexico!

???? Are there cheap quality hotels?

Yes, there are plenty! It really depends where you are going in the world but I know that our minds are set that if a hotel is cheap, then it is almost absolutely indecent.

But that’s not always the case. There are hotels that are under US$40 (especially in Southeast Asia) but are very comfortable and clean. I must say this is another personal and subjective topic to discuss since what’s comfortable for you doesn’t really apply to me.

The way I travel is to invest more in food (i.e. I would eat a US$300 tasting menu at a fancy restaurant vs paying a US$300 Airbnb/hotel). Our priorities are different when it comes to our travel budget so better identify that yourself.

What is “cheap” and “quality” for you? What does that mean and how will a hotel meet your standard for the price tag that you put for your travel?

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find cheap hotels

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????️ Tips on how to find cheap hotels

#1: Stay in hostels

14 years ago, when I started backpacking, I had to stay in many hostels. As a 20-year-old young backpacker, I had to put my daily hostel budget to less than US$10, which, today, is pretty low.

I don’t think there are hostels right now that are less than US$10 and if they are, they are probably not very good. Not even close to basic! I’ve lived in hostels for 3 straight years and it was the best years of my life. 

But that set-up was only convenient because I was young. Today, I still stay in hostels but more in the boutique/luxury category. From the time I first traveled the world, the hostel trends have evolved significantly.

There are many designer hostels all over the world with dorm rooms equipped with comfortable bedding, lamp light, and curtains for privacy.

For some of us, sharing a bed in a dorm with people you don’t know might be uncomfortable but you’d be surprised how you’ll meet so many people, especially if you are traveling solo!

I use Hostelworld in looking for the best hostels all over the world. I love using this platform because you only pay 12% for your reservation to be confirmed, which you can also present at immigration when you are traveling to a country. Some countries ask for proof of accommodation!

peru tour packages

I met these guys in a hostel in Cusco, Peru. We clicked, traveled around Cusco for 10 days, and became friends forever!

#2: Join Couchsurfing

I joined Couchsurfing in 2008, a year when the Couchsurfing spirit was new – the concept was fresh! Nowadays, Couchsurfing has a bad reputation (i.e. surfers getting harassed, especially women) and it’s sad to see this happening to the CS community.

Couchsurfing is one of the oldest platforms for finding cheap accommodations. If you are the traveler, you are called the surfer, and the person who will receive you is the host.

The host puts his/her home open for surfing on the platform with details on where you’ll sleep, living arrangements, area where you are going to stay, and what is expected of you in exchange for the stay.

Honestly, nothing should be expected from you because the idea of Couchsurfing is for you to crash the couch of a fellow traveler and exchange stories and/or travel together. 

I have couchsurfed in over 50+ cities in the world, particularly in Europe and I met so many amazing people! In return, I hosted these people who’ve received me whenever they are in my city. It’s such a great community if you get really involved!

There are also weekly Couchsurfing meetings in every city, arranged by the community. These meetings are more of a drinking/hanging out/meet-up where you will get to chat with many travelers like you.

I know it’s not very normal to stay in a stranger’s house but my tip is for you to read the profiles and references of your host. Always stay with CS hosts that have more than 5 references and get in touch with those people who left references in the host’s profile.

Read my Couchsurfing safety tips and see if this kind of cheap accommodation works for you. One good example that I have is when I stayed with a stranger in Lima, Peru in 2014!

Another platform similar to Couchsurfing is BeWelcome. I have not tried this myself so I can’t really speak for it but I’ve had many friends who recommended it. I will update this post once I find out how it works!

couchsurfing safety tips

I remember this night in 2016 when there were actually 15 of us in one Couchsurfer host’s home!

#3: Go on a work exchange gig

One of my favorite ways how to find cheap hotels is through work exchange. I’ve done this for 3.5 years non-stop and I became fluent in 7 languages because of this!

Work exchange works this way: you work for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week (max) and in exchange, your host will give you free accommodation and food for the number of houses you’ve worked.

During your free time and 2 days off, you can go around the city you are in and explore like normal. This type of accommodation is ideal for backpackers, digital nomads, or those who are traveling the world for an indefinite time.

There are many types of work exchange gigs like hostel work (reception, cleaning), practicing English with a family, and many more. You are free to choose where you want to do your work exchange but the competition is sometimes high as many backpackers are already doing this.

I use Worldpackers to find volunteering and work exchange jobs abroad. They have listings in many countries and their yearly membership is super cheap!

By the way, if you use my code PSIMONMYWAY10 (or click the link above), you can get a US$10 off your annual membership.

To further understand how volunteering and work exchange works, you can check my article about tips on how to volunteer abroad.

volunteer travel tips

Oh no, this is not the awful volunteering job. In fact, this is one of the best! (La Paz, Bolivia, 2014)

#4: Be a house-sitter while traveling!

As many of you know, I am traveling with two crazy dogs and we’ve done house-sitting a lot. Many people go on vacations and don’t want to leave their pets behind, especially if they are leaving for long periods of time.

I use the site TrustedHouse-Sitters.com when looking for houses and pets to sit. The membership fee for a year is US$75 and you will find unlimited house-sitting opportunities around the world.

The set-up/deal will depend on you and the host so I really can’t speak for all hosts. They all have their rules, a minimum number of days to stay, etc. Ideally, they would want you to stay for the duration of their trip so your schedules should match as well.

Apart from getting free accommodations, the homes listed on pet-sitting websites are very comfortable and are usually family homes. All you have to do is to watch out for their pets while they are gone and you can continue your daily travels or remote work while doing so. 

However, this isn’t as easy as applying for work exchange since the competition is tough: many digital nomads and long-term travelers are doing this professionally (as a living).

The hosts will usually interview you via Zoom as they are also interviewing other candidates. Check out my article on how to create a stellar house-sitting profile and make sure your bio stands out!

find cheap hotels

My dogs are used to traveling so I also easily get house-sitting gigs1

#5: Check out deals on Booking.com

Booking.com is a great platform to find cheap hotels because they have a deals page. In these deals, you will find 50% discounts on random hotels, depending on the day. They always announce deals for hotels anywhere in the world!

It is also a good booking reservation that immigration officers always accept. You don’t have to pay for a confirmed hotel reservation with Booking.com. They have a pay-at-the-property feature so you can definitely use this as proof of accommodation when traveling. 

Some properties don’t take your credit card details and will confirm your reservation anyway. 

find cheap hotels

I found an all-inclusive deal on Booking.com and stayed in a resort for half the price!

#6: Use Vrbo, not Airbnb

If you haven’t switched to Vrbo from Airbnb yet, now is the time to do so! I switched to Vrbo early in 2021 when Airbnb started charging high booking fees as extras. Because of this, many Airbnb hosts moved their listing to Vrbo. 

Vrbo has many cheaper apartments for rent and they also have a long-term deal with discounts. Their listings all over the world are also extensive and I feel like there are more apartments to choose from than Airbnb.

Of course, Vrbo hosts need to up their game by using high-quality images as it sometimes discourages us to book a property without good images.

If this happens to you, just check out the reviews and see how other people thought about their stay in the property you want to book in.  

cheap quality hotels

#7: Stay with local families

Over the last 14 years, I have been received in many homes, especially in Central and South America. This is my favorite cheap accommodation since I don’t only get to stay for free but I also get to learn how the locals cook, eat, and sleep.

This method has helped me become fluent in over 5 languages since most of these households don’t speak English. For those who love deep culture dives, this is something that you should do!

But I don’t really have a website or platform to recommend when it comes to looking for host families abroad. What I do is to find friends in the area, tell them I want to stay with local families, and from there, a chain of unlimited connection to people they know takes place. 

I’ve also tried Facebook groups before and more often, tell Couchsurfing hosts that I am looking for a home with families (not individuals).

There isn’t any concrete way to measure the safety level of this type of accommodation but personally, I have never been harmed when staying with families I don’t know. 

host family in Brazil

Local family stay in Pouso Alegre, Brazil. I now visit them every year!

#8: Trade/swap houses

This is ideal for those who are going to travel to Europe and is probably an option better for girls. In Europe, there is a Facebook group called House/Flat Swap For Women, where you can literally swap homes with anyone in the group.

Every day, women travelers in that group post their travel plans (see image below) and if that matches your travel plan and/or you are flexible, then you can have a home to yourself in any city in Europe!

This method is super safe and I have tried this myself. This is good for those who are living alone and wants to travel somewhere near without spending money on accommodations.

Plus, you will gain new friends and you can swap houses again for your future trip!

find cheap hotels

#9: Walk-in (best way)

Since I am traveling for an indefinite time and am sometimes bad at carefully strategizing my itinerary and travels, I always find myself walking in hotels, more often in the middle of the night. 

I always rent a car everywhere I travel so this gives me more flexibility with walking in hotels. And believe me, it’s always cheaper than booking platforms since they do not charge the booking fees online when you pay at the property.

It still helps for you to check if there’s availability online before walking in. Don’t just go there without knowing if there are rooms for you to stay in.

It will also help you compare the price you see online versus the price at the property. In the end, you can have an external deal with the receptionist or owner and haggle with the price. They are always open and flexible to walk-in deals!

tequila from guadalajara

#10: Write about it!

I have to be honest here: I almost don’t pay for accommodations, thanks to my job! But it’s not all for free – I do have to work for it by taking pictures and writing a review about my stay.

But what if you don’t have a platform but are a skilled writer and somehow have an eye for photography? My tip: pitch it to websites and authoritative travel blogs.

For example, if you want to stay in an ocean villa in the Maldives, before pitching to the hotel, find a blog/website that will accept your piece.

Travel bloggers will 100% accept this guest post/content as long as it is authentic and you know what you are doing. You must be skilled with writing and at least know how to take decent photos.

After finding a blog/website, they will usually help you how to formulate your pitch since the material is for them. I do accept hotel reviews from all over the world so if you want to review hotels for a living, get in touch with me and I will hook you up with my many contacts.

You can also check out my article, how to get a complimentary stay as a blogger to get more ideas on how it works.

restaurants with taj mahal view

✈️ Ready to travel the world for ALMOST free? This blog thrives on reader questions so feel free to ask questions about how to find cheap hotels by using the comment box below. You can also sign up for 1-on-1 coaching with me if you need more help!

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